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Frances Fitzgerald declares interest in EU Commissioner job as Simon Coveney refuses to rule himself out

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Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Frank McGrath

Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Frank McGrath

Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Frank McGrath

FORMER Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has publicly thrown her hat in the ring to he the next Irish EU Commissioner.

The ex-Justice Minister and MEP disclosed her interest to the Irish Independent, conceding however that the Government is faced with a difficult decision.

Ms Fitzgerald now joins Máiread McGuinness in publicly expressing interest in the prestigious job vacated last week by Phil Hogan.

With EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen having publicly called on the Government here to put forward "a woman and a man," the Fitzgerald declaration heaps new pressure on the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and leader of the Green Party to do exactly that.

"Clearly this is a very finely balanced and difficult decision for the Irish Government, and a very important one in terms of this country's future relationship with Europe," Ms Fitzgerald told the Irish Independent.

"There are many social and economic implications to that decision and that relationship, and there are obviously a number of people with different skill sets interested in taking it on.

"I would like to express my own interest, based on 20 years in politics and public life, with an NGO and then reaching to the highest levels of Government. I feel I would have the level of experience necessary to the role.

"I would therefore like to put my name forward for consideration."

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, the favourite, said he was not ruling himself out of the job, but told RTE News is was “up to the Government to decide” on whose name or names would be submitted to President von der Leyen.

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Mr Coveney said he had no decision to make as yet as he had not received any request from the Taoiseach or Government, adding that national politics was “a huge part of my life” and demanding his concentration.

“I'm not ruling myself out but this is subject to a decision of the three party leaders,” he told RTE Southern Editor Paschal Sheehy.

“I would need to have a very good reason to move away from the focus that I have at the moment which is a privilege and hugely important.

“And I would need to be convinced that I could add significant value to our chances of increasing the profile within the commission of Irish influence, and that's something that I know the Taoiseach and his team are trying to establish at the moment.”

He declined to comment of party colleague Mairead McGuinness’s warning that it would be it would be wrong to ignore Ms von der Leyen’s request for the names of a woman and a man to be submitted for her to make a choice.

“I'm not going to get into that speculation,” he said. “This is a decision to be made by Government, on behalf of the country. And the Taoiseach will make that decision when he's ready to do it.”

Meanwhile Dublin Central TD and former Green party whip Neara Hourigan urged the Government to meet the Commission President’s request, saying to do so would be “completely in line with furthering the role of women,” which was a stated objective of her party.

“We didn’t honour it in the last process,” she said of a similar request when solely the name of Phil Hogan was put forward as continuing for a second term. “I think it’s now time to do so.”

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan had a preliminary telephone discussion on the matter today, and will have a more formal meeting on the subject tonight when they could prepare a decision for ratification at Cabinet tomorrow.


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